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Common Conversational Words and Phrases in Japanese

4 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Japanese Words and Phrases for Traveling

By mastering the basics of polite conversation, you can put yourself and the person you're talking with at ease. There are some essential conversation words and phrases that everyone should master before traveling to Japan. These words and expressions are sure to come up in most everyday conversations.

Courtesy phrases

Being polite are just as important in Japan as they are in America. The following words and phrases cover most of the pleasantries required for polite conversation. After all, learning to say the expressions of common courtesy before traveling to Japan is just good manners.

Hai. (yes)
Īe. (no; Oh, it's nothing.)
Dōzo. (please)
Arigatō. (Thanks [informal])
Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu. (Thank you very much.)
Dō itashimashite. (You're welcome.)
Tabun. (Maybe.)
Īe, ii desu. (No, thank you.)
Gomennasai. (Sorry!)
Sumimasen. (I'm sorry.)
Chotto sumimasen. (Excuse me.)
Chotto literally means "a little," but it's used to soften the expression in Chotto sumimasen.
Mochiron. (of course)
Ā, sō desu ka. (Oh, I see.)
Hai shows agreement, and Īe shows disagreement. They correspond to "yes" and "no" in English if the question is affirmative, but they become reversed when the question is negative.

Phrases for travelers

There are some phrases that are particularly helpful to international travelers. Below are several phrases that might come in handy during your stay in Japan.

  • Nihongo ga wakarimasen. (I don't understand Japanese.)

  • Nihongo ga amari hanasemasen. (I don't speak Japanese well.)

  • Mō ichido itte kudasai. (Can you say it again?)

  • Mō ichido onegai shimasu. (One more time, please.)

  • Yukkuri onegai shimasu. (Slowly, please.)

  • Chotto tasukete kudasai. (Help me, please.)

  • Eigo ga wakarimasu ka. (Do you understand English?)

  • "Train" wa Nihongo de nan desu ka. (How do you say "train" in Japanese?)

  • Chotto wakarimasen. (I don't know.)

    Wakarimasen can mean either "I don't know" or "I don't understand." When you mean I don't know, add chotto to soften it.

  • Daijōbu desu ka. (Are you all right?)

  • Hai, daijōbu desu. (Yes, I'm all right.)

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